A Falklands veteran, who uses the Alexander Technique to cope with his Service-related mental health problems, is now helping others benefit from it.
Richard Marsden, from Barrow, has been running a clinic in Preston for the past fifteen years but is now also offering the service in his home town too, teaching others how to use the self-help process that has enabled him to move forward after years of struggling with life in ‘civvy street’.
Richard joined the Scots Guards, at the age of 16, as soon as he left school in Blackburn. During his 12-year military career, he saw active service in the Falklands and Northern Ireland, was part of a peace-keeping force in Egypt and was on duty at both the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and the funeral of Lord Mountbatten.
“I packed a lot in,” he admits. “I loved the military life for the variety and the camaraderie but left because symptoms of what I now know to be PTSD were starting to manifest.”
When he left in 1988, having reached the rank of Sergeant, he embarked on a new career in stationery sales, rising to area manager. But he struggled with daily life and eventually had to give up work. The medical profession seemed unable to help and it was not until November 2014, after he approached Combat Stress, that he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and put in touch with Help for Heroes.
The military charity has been supporting Richard ever since.
“Getting the diagnosis was a major step in my recovery”. Because he’d also had spinal problems related to PTSD, Richard had tried all sorts of therapies – osteopathy, chiropractic, pilates – until, eventually, someone noticed how very stiff and stressed he was and recommended the Alexander Technique.
Named after its founder, this is designed to change the habits that contribute towards functional problems such as back pain, muscle tension, poor posture and breathing problems and, consequently, optimising performance in everyday life so that a person can better cope with stress and physical problems.
Said Richard: “I hadn’t realised it but, despite having left the army years ago, my mind was still in military mode – I was metaphorically marching around and approaching everything in ‘civvy street’ as I would have in the army. It was a bad mix and led to me being unable to work and to the break-up of my marriage.
“By practicing the Alexander Technique, I have learned to let certain aspects of the military go and, as a result, have a much better quality of life.”
The 59-year-old is also now repairing relationships with his two teenage sons and, last year, married his new partner Wendy – the reason for him relocating to Barrow.
Full of gratitude for the benefits of the Technique, Richard was determined to spread the word. He attended a six-day course, devised jointly by X-Forces and Help for Heroes to enable wounded, injured and sick veterans to discover whether self-employment is the right path for them.
Armed with a new lap top and marketing support, thanks to funding from Help for Heroes, Richard then re-launched his business as a sole trader, calling it Strolling Lighthouse.
“Strolling because that is now the pace that I am able to take life, as opposed to forced marching, and Lighthouse as a symbol of the beacon that is not only guiding me but helping me to guide others when the storm hits!” explained Richard.
Richard’s Barrow practice is based in a studio in his home. For more information or to book an appointment, visit http://www.strollinglighthouse.co.uk or call Richard on 0778 685 8950.